Chandler Jones is a perfect example of how quickly things can change in the NFL and sports in general.
A year ago, Chandler Jones was the most underrated, underappreciated defensive start in football coming of 19 sacks and holding the Sack Champion belt from the previous six years.
This year, his name is popping up on a list of potential surprise cuts.
Is Chandler Jones really in danger of being cut? Absolutely not. The Cardinals are in, relatively speaking, good shape cap wise as the new league year begins. Chandler Jones is turning 31 in a few weeks, not 41. While the team would realize over $15 million in cap savings this year by cutting him, you don’t win any games with cap space.
But, that doesn’t mean Jones won’t be on the move. Cutting Chandler Jones would be insanely dumb but trade Chandler Jones could be very intriguing. Entering the final year of his contract, the Cardinals have a decision to make with their franchise sack artist. They can either extend him now, reducing his cap hit for this season and keeping him in place long term or they can try and trade him and reallocate those resources to bigger needs on the team.
Here’s one scenario that I think is worth considering: Trading Chandler Jones for a second round pick. Let's say Shaq Barrett of the Bucs takes the highest dollar out of Tompa (Champa) Bay and the Bucs are ready to turn to the Cardinals to fill their pass rush need. Could you get the 32nd pick for Jones? Or the 64th? I think the Bucs and several other good teams would make that kind of trade for him or a late first or maybe more likely, a late 2nd round pick for the proven production of Chandler Jones.
Now the Cardinals could take their new found draft capital and turn it into a trade for Marshon Lattimore or Stephon Gilmore to fortify a secondary likely to be missing Patrick Peterson while keeping the 16th overall pick.
Then, the Cardinals could use the franchise tag on Haason Reddick, choosing to spend money on the 26 year old pass rusher than the 31 year old pass rusher and bring back Markus Golden to keep together the pass rushing unit that thrived in Jones’s absence.
With the 16th overall pick, the Cardinals could still build their offensive line with the best interior lineman on the board, like Alijah Vera-Tucker, Wyatt Davis or even Landon Dickerson and keep at least one second round pick to use on a long term potential replacement for Jones.
Those are a lot of hypotheticals but the point still stands, the Cardinals may be able to use Jones and his value to build their team in more urgent areas while keeping intact a respectable pass rush from last season.
At a minimum, it's a helluva lot more realistic than just cutting Chandler Jones.